Toto Wolff has confirmed that Mercedes will “monitor” Sebastian Vettel’s situation now he is leaving Ferrari and that F1’s world champions cannot yet rule the German out of a 2021 drive.
Vettel’s F1 future beyond this year is hugely uncertain after the four-time champion and Ferrari decided to part ways at the end of the year.
Mercedes are now the only one of F1’s leading teams yet to sign up either of their drivers for next season, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ deals expiring in December.
Hamilton, in particular, is expected to strike a new deal and the prospect of Mercedes teaming the six-time champion with long-time rival Vettel in what would be the most decorated F1 line-up of all time is still considered unlikely.
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Nonetheless, in an interview with Martin Brundle which appears in full in the latest Sky F1 Vodcast, Wolff said: “Sebastian is a four-time world champion and him suddenly becoming available was unexpected.
“And, therefore, it is a situation that needs to be monitored.
“Where could he potentially go, where are we with our drivers, and what I said [before] is I wouldn’t discount Sebastian for any seat.
“We have looked at the situation. Our priority and concentration is on our Mercedes drivers – that’s Lewis, Valtteri and the juniors. George Russell being one of them; Esteban Ocon is obviously a Renault driver today.
“And only if we can’t find a solution within that group of drivers we will look elsewhere and then obviously Sebastian is in a very good position.”
Speaking in a later press conference with the wider media, Wolff said it is not simply out of respect for Vettel that he is not yet discounting the 32-year-old.
Wolff pointed to then-newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement at the end of 2016 as an example of how the driver market can be turned on its head completely out of the blue.
“It’s not lip service, but we owe it to a four-time champion not to come out and say straight away ‘no’. You need to think about it,” said Wolff.
“On the other side, we have a fantastic line-up and I’ve very happy with both our pilots and George, but you never know. One of them may decide he doesn’t want to go racing anymore and suddenly you have a vacant spot.
“This is why I don’t want to come out in June and say ‘no chance, Sebastian is not racing for us’. I wouldn’t do it to him as a driver, to be that blunt, and on the otherwise side I’ve seen black swans appearing when nobody suspected – remember Nico Rosberg. In that respect, we’re just keeping our options open, but of course concentrating our discussions with our current drivers.”
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.